‘Gingerbread and Buttercup’ mum of three benefitting from technical skills and expertise at Northern Regional College

Local entrepreneurs are continuing to benefit from the technical skills and expertise of the Business Engagement team at Northern Regional College.

Local entrepreneurs are continuing to benefit from the technical skills and expertise of the Business Engagement team at Northern Regional College.

Tailored support for small businesses is readily available through Department for the Economy (DfE) funded skills development programmes such as InnovateUS, Skills Focus and Innovation Vouchers.

One such business to take advantage of the free business support available at FE colleges is Gingerbread and Buttercup.

Siobhan Mullan with a selection from Gingerbread and Buttercup’s handmade range of clothes for children and babies

The Feeny-based company makes unique and stylish clothes for children and babies with all items handmade to order in quality fabrics and sold online.

Siobhan Mullan started making baby clothes for her own children and as gifts for friends when her boys were small. On the back of positive feedback, she decided to go into business and set up Gingerbread and Buttercup - named after her two eldest boys, one a red head and the other blonde. 

Completely self-taught, learning to sew using YouTube videos, Siobhan and her company have grown steadily since it was established five years ago.

With most customers orginally coming from the UK and Ireland, Siobhan is shipping further afield after her range became available through Esty, the online marketplace for handmade gifts.

Siobhan Mullan, who set up Gingerbread and Buttercup five years ago, enjoying some down time with husband Diarmuid and boys Donnach, Senan and Dáithí

Eoin McGahon, one of the College’s technical specialists, outlined the challenges facing the company and how it was able to benefit from College’s support: “Gingerbread and Buttercup sells online, and Siobhan was keen to learn how to manage and get the most out of the company’s website.

“She also wanted to get a better understanding of digital marketing to increase sales and help the company’s continued growth.

“We offered support under InnovateUS, a fully funded DfE skills development programme which provides bespoke training solutions for small businesses.

“Siobhan received 30 hours of upskilling support and one-to-one training with a mentor on how to manage and develop the company website, and to launch and optimise digital marketing activities.”

Eoin said as the project progressed, Siobhan grew in confidence and a follow up project with Gingerbread and Buttercup is now planned to further develop eCommerce and digital marketing strategies for the business.

He continued: “Gingerbread and Buttercup’s listing performance greatly improved to increase the rate of conversions and improve search engine optimisation (SEO).

“We also developed new digital marketing activities to increase brand awareness and website traffic.”

Siobhan said that until she did the mentoring sessions, her IT literacy skills were ‘fairly basic’: “I was learning as I went along and was happy with my website as it was easy for customers to navigate but I thought I should be able to do more with it.

“Now I feel more confident about managing the website myself to make work more efficiently for the business.”

Siobhan also admits that until the sessions, she was not aware how tools like Google Analytics or ads on social media worked.

She now has a much better understanding of how beneficial they can be and how to make them work for her business – she also has all her notes to refer to if she’s unsure about anything.

She added: “It is me who takes the order, cuts it, sews it, adds buttons where needed and loving packs each and every single items.

“I just love what I do and I can work around my little family.

“I definitely learned so much at the mentoring sessions. And already I’m seeing the benefits as my website has a much greater reach with increased traffic being directed to it.”

For information on how NRC’s Business Engagement team can help contact [email protected]

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